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Bridging the Gap of Nonverbal Communication with Drawings

kawaiidaigakusei at 12:00AM, March 21, 2016

I have always been a proponent for the belief that art and drawing can be used as a mechanism to bring two strangers from completely different worlds together. That is why it is no surprise that I gravitated toward a young student who preferred to use crayons, markers, and paper to communicate instead of spoken language.

Over the past six weeks, I have been given the opportunity to work in a classroom of students with nonverbal autism. It was interesting that I have been able to pick up on their subtle cues of communication since week two. I have been an observer all my life. I spent the first six years of grade school not talking much, so I am very much aware of the importance of visual prompts.

There is one student in the class who has a natural love for drawing and I picked up on it the first day I met him. Whenever there is free time on the playground, I am prepared with a stack of paper and some crayons and we sit and draw together side-by-side. It was through these drawing sessions that I was able to get a glimpse of exactly what was going on in that mind of his: happy characters from a video game called “Roblox”; a long repeating hallway with many doors receding farther and farther into the background; a room that only had two doors with “EXIT” written above one and “DANGER” written above the other; some of the drawings show scary looking monsters. I have used these drawing sessions to better understand the complexity of the inner workings of the human mind especially when there is so much happening inside there that needs to be let out.


I experienced a rare moment last week. It was an A-typical Wednesday and I was sitting on the blacktop next to my creative friend when he suddenly bit down hard on the pen tip, grabbed the paper from the clipboard and began to rip it in half. This outburst of aggression happens on a daily basis, but it is so difficult to pinpoint the exact trigger when they happen out of the blue or so suddenly. In this incident, the main trigger might have come from me saying the word “No” too many times after he had ripped the paper. Chalk it up to perfectionism and anxiety from making a mistake.

In order to stop the negative behavior from escalating any further, I sat on my knees in front of him, took his hand, looked him in the eyes and said:

"You are Amazing. You are Brilliant. You are So Smart. I just need you to have a Calm Body. Right Now."

It was that moment that he stood up and began walking towards me and opened his arms for a hug and he hugged me for a few seconds. I can honestly say that I needed that hug just as much as he did.

After a while, he knelt in front of me in a yoga child's pose with his forehead resting on my hands, which were resting on my lap. My heart melted in that instant and I knew I was on the verge of crying joyful tears. We sat there on the playground for the next five or ten minutes (or however long it was until recess was over).

Working with children who see the world in a unique way that is very different from the rest of the population has given me an insightful perspective. There is no right or wrong way to experience the world.

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Banes at 8:25AM, March 21, 2016

Fascinating story and insights, thanks kawaii. It's so easy to forget that people who operate differently have just as much or more going on inside as "average people" do. These experiences of yours are great eye-openers.

PaulEberhardt at 5:50AM, March 21, 2016

I'll second that. I was totally riveted when I read this. Apart from the in itself very fascinating main topic I can see you like working with children for the same reason I do. The way they keep surprising you every now and then, showing you how to approach things from an entirely different angle. Just yesterday I had a chat about something very similar with a friend of mine who is into social working. I should show this to him, only he's pretty crap at English... Perhaps it'll work using pictures. ;)

KimLuster at 4:51AM, March 21, 2016

What a fascinating, and touching, account here! Wow! Thanks for working with these Kids Kawaii!!

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